In November 1969, the Moody Blues released their album To Our Children’s Children’s Children. I was 16 years old and found the title and many of the tracks to be profound; although at the time I didn’t comprehend all that the songs conveyed, nor did I consider what the world would be like fifty years hence, or for successive generations.
Since I have embarked on this journey with Seeds for Kindness, I have become even more acutely aware of the future generations of families and people. Although I have no children, I have 4 nephews, one who recently got married, so now I think more and more what will the earth look like for my nephews children, and their children?
What kind of planet are we leaving them?
Research in the Netherlands:
On October 15, 2018, Aarhus University in the Netherlands released a research report: Mammals cannot evolve fast enough to escape current extinction crises.
The summary states: “The sixth mass extinction is underway, this time caused by humans. A team of researchers calculated that species are dying out so quickly that nature’s built-in defense mechanism, evolution, cannot keep up. If current conservation efforts are not improved, so many mammal species will become extinct during the next five decades that nature will need 3-5 million years to recover to current biodiversity levels. And that’s a best-case scenario.”
Imagine there are no tigers, elephants, lions, gorillas, cheetahs, orangutans, sea turtles, jaguars. Imagine there are no maple-leaf oak trees, Florida yew trees, coastal redwoods, or the giant sequoias.
Species threatened and endangered:
According to the IUCN (The International Union for Conservation of Nature) there are now 79,837 species on the Red List, and 23,250 are endangered species (plants and animals) threatened with extinction. Forty-one percent of the endangered are amphibians. Over 1,100 trees are critically endangered and in need of immediate conservation action.
In more chilling facts: just five years ago the number of IUCN red listed species was 41,415 -- 16,306 of those being endangered.
In light of the report from Aarhus University that evolution will not save these varied species, what will mother earth look like to our children in twenty years, and their children in forty years?
Pando is dying:
The largest organism in the world named Pando (Latin for I spread out) is a massive grove of quaking aspens in Fishlake National Forest in Utah. Aspen trees have the unique ability to produce genetically identical offspring through offshoots from their root system. Their ability to multiply asexually through their root system, helps Aspen trees colonize large areas of land through a shared root system.
The Pando grove of 47,000 aspens all originate from a single parent aspen. This single aspen genetically cloned itself and has been doing this for thousands of years. Some estimates are that the single parent is 80,000 years old. The single parent tree has been able to supply its offspring at every stage of an aspen tree’s life.
Grazing animals such as mule deer and cattle, plus human encroachment including campgrounds, power lines, hiking trails have caused Pando to shrink in size. Now Pando’s ability to produce young offspring to replace dying trees has been reduced because of the browsing animals that eat the young aspen sprouts.
With a high mule deer population, and no wolves to thin the herds, and hunting not allowed in this recreational area has led some researchers to predict Pando’s system could collapse in the next 10-20 years.
The world’s oldest organism collapsing on our watch…
The winged ones:
There are currently 412 endangered avian species, and many more that are classified as vulnerable to extinction. Some of the vulnerable birds are the Snowy Owl, the Atlantic Puffin, the Grey Parrot, the Black-legged Kittiwake. The Extinction list in North America includes: the California Condor, the Mississippi Sandhill Crane, the Whooping Crane, the Northern Spotted Owl, the short-tailed Albatross, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and a long list of native Hawaiian birds.
The Asian Vulture has been in decline partly as a result of acute poisoning from livestock carcasses contaminated with the veterinary drug diclofenac. World-wide eight vulture species are classified as Critically Endangered, and three vulture species are Near Threatened. Vultures have played an important role in sanitation throughout most of human history. They help curb the spread of dangerous diseases and bacteria because their stomachs have strong enzymes that can kill dangerous toxins and microorganisms.
How much more vulnerable to the spread of disease will we be without the vultures?
Penguins are also at risk…including the famous Emperor Penguin now on the Near Threatened list, the Galapagos Penguin now Endangered. A decrease in sea ice, climate change that produces warmer seas and thus famine could push the iconic penguin to extinction.
According to the IUCN one of every five avian species could be extinct in the next 50-80 years, which equates to 2,000 species of birds. The overwhelming culprits are: agricultural development, human population growth, by-catch in trawl nets, deforestation, and pesticides.
The EU takes action:
Recently, the European Parliament voted for an extensive ban on single-use plastics by an overwhelming vote of 571-53. Products under the ban include plastic plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds to be eradicated by 2021. The ban is estimated to help reduce 50% of marine litter.
The EU proposal includes plans to make companies more accountable for their plastic waste. This includes producers of fishing gear, because fishing gear accounts for over a quarter of the waste found on Europe’s beaches and is thought to be responsible for thousands of whales, seals, and bird deaths.
EU member-states would be obliged to recycle 90% of plastic bottles by 2025, and producers would have to help cover costs of waste management.
Take politics out of the environment:
In the US we have allowed politics to divide and obfuscate critically important environmental challenges: climate change, species extinction, carbon, pollution, preservation. I, you, and we allowed politicians and political parties to take the health and welfare of the planet and turn it into partisanship and selfishness. We allowed politicians to turn humanity at large and Americans specifically into "Us versus Them".
It’s time we put mother earth first.
If all Americans gave up plastic straws, plastic silverware, plastic plates; if we ended single-use plastics forever.
If we shopped for items with the environment in mind. If we looked for goods that were made from recycled materials, and from renewables such as hemp, cork, bamboo, and eucalyptus.
We can do this. We are a culture of compassion and creativity. We can stand with other nations around the world in combating climate change, lack of biodiversity, and new innovative energy solutions.
We can stand up for our children’s children’s children….
Imagine there’s no forest
It’s easy if you try
No moss, or leafy canopy
only ozone, and an empty sky.
Imagine there’s no ocean
Just a sea of plastic trash
No whales or even sea birds
And no beach for waves to splash
Imagine all the garbage choking up the bays,
You may say I am a dreamer
That I want the earth to heal
I hope you see the crises
As I make this passionate appeal
Imagine no more landfills
I wonder if you can
No plastic or petrochemicals
A stewardship of the land
Imagine all the animals thriving in the world
You may say I am a dreamer
That we can stand as one
For all the sentient beings
And the children yet to come.
(Image credit: The Moody Blues "To Our Children's Children's Children")